Becoming an entrepreneur is about changing a mindset, not having a big idea.
“Ninety percent of the people who try to start a new business do it because they have a great idea,” said Thomas O’Malia, who is teaching Entrepreneurial Thinking at ACPE’s 2012 Fall Institute. “But they’re the only ones who think it’s a great idea. They hold onto it for the bragging rights and talk about it at the bar. But that’s not what’s involved.”
As an instructor and a self-described “recovering entrepreneur,” O’Malia enjoys helping physicians embrace their entrepreneurial sides. But that means letting go of some preconceived ideas and being open to change.
The first lesson: The key to success is not having a big idea, it’s about finding something that causes pain or annoyance and coming up with a means for correcting it.
“If I identify a pain and I fix it, I will have people loving me for life,” O’Malia said.
To illustrate, O’Malia enjoys telling his students the story of Frederick W. Smith, a student at Yale University. Before his exams, Smith’s mother in San Francisco sent him a care package filled with all of his favorite things: cookies, T-shirts and lots of fresh fruit. But by the time it reached Smith, the fruit had spoiled and ruined the rest of the package
Smith learned it took 17 days for his package to travel from San Francisco to Connecticut. It occurred to him that a private company that used commercial airplanes exclusively for transporting packages could reduce the travel time dramatically. He outlined his idea in an economics term paper.
“The professor gave the paper back to him and scrawled across the top in red ink was ‘B minus. Dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,’” O’Malia said. Smith, of course, went on to create FedEx.
In addition to being humorous, the story illustrates O’Malia’s point: FedEx was successful because Smith identified a problem that needed fixing.
O’Malia has plenty of experience in the entrepreneurial world. As a consultant, he was involved in the successful turnaround of six companies. He also helped launch two companies, including ShopTrac Data Collections Systems, Inc., a software provider that supports manufacturers in improving labor productivity and operational efficiency on the shop floor.
Today, O’Malia serves as a professor of clinical entrepreneurship at USC’s Marshall School of Business. He teaches as part of the school’s Masters in Medical Management program, which is offered jointly with ACPE.
Because the health care world is changing so rapidly, the need for physician entrepreneurs is growing, O’Malia said. His goal is to give doctors the tools they need to be successful in the business world.
“Not necessarily to become the next Steve Jobs,” O’Malia cautioned. “But because you, the doctor, have the best eyes for what’s happening in the business.”
To register or learn more about Entrepreneurial Thinking at the ACPE 2012 Fall Institute, visit here.